Elk 5, Lance Boys 0
This year brought about two excellent hunt opportunities to allow us to continue our annual frustration and consternation caused by the elusive Wapiti, spoiler alert, bringing the current score to Elk 5, Lance Boys 0.
The thrill of the chase, the constant chess match that is any form of hunting and the beautiful sights in desolate land bring us to attempt this every year, and one of these days lady luck will have to shine upon us.
Even after 3 years of trying, we remain fairly new to big game hunting, but are far from amateurs given the accounts we hear and stories we read, we are in the zone, making this all the more confusing. Part of the perceived trouble is that we continue to hunt new areas, which means we dedicate a fair amount of time getting to know new country, rather than going back to known spots. The tradeoff is, each new area we hunt we have the opportunity to come back to in later years. The more areas we cover, the more knowledge we have about our great states, and the animals that inhabit them.
This year, my brother was fortunate to draw a great Mule Deer tag in an area that had an optional Cow Elk tag add on, without hesitation, he picked up both tags, and began planning his hunt. With his results in hand, I was able to put in for my draw, as it was my year to head to Nevada. I wanted to make sure I put in for a hunt that would not interfere with our annual hootenanny and pun in for a very exclusive area, thinking I had little chance at a tag. I was wrong, I drew one of the best tags Idaho has to offer, so I took the hunt seriously and used my network to gather information about the area, called fish and game and did a ton of google earth scouting. It was a great year, and per usual, the company during the Nevada hunt was great, and the hunting was good enough to keep us coming back for more.
The Nevada Elk hunt commenced after the mule deer tag was filled, as we knew the odds were more in our favor on that effort. While scouting for his buck tag, we did encounter a flash of elk, and even foolishly pursued them. Throughout the deer hunt, we were in observation mode, trying to not only find anything that moved, but also what looked like good elk cover.
What ended up being the second to last day of our outing, we were riding along a hillside, when my brother slammed on the brakes and pointed to a hillside 600 yards away. There below a pocket of desert mahogany grazed a small group of beautiful blonde Elk. After a brief plan formulation, we set about closing that gap. In the process, we lost sight of the herd of 5 cows, and a yearling for no more than 5 minutes as we stealthily grew closer. This 5 minutes was more than enough for them to decide it was time to move on. I do not believe they were spooked, simply ready to move back to the hidden abyss from whence they came.
We glassed this area the next day, to find nothing more than a fair amount of mule deer, not previously seen by us making their way through the leafless quakies. The lack of elk was completely overshadowed by the opportunity to watch several different groups of mule deer graze, take to water, and bed down in our observed area. This was a cool experience, and the major less on learned regarding elk hunting is a simple one, never let them leave your sight.
With this lesson fresh in my thoughts, I had around 20 days to hunt in one of the best draws in the state of Idaho. Myself and 39 other hunters would tackle the Owyhee’s, in units 40 and 42 in search of the elk everyone knows are there. Due to work commitments, I was limited to hunting this area for about 4 days, but had a plan and good word of mouth references to go from.
The first spot I hunted brought me to a mix of country, with snow on the mountain top, and a few transitional valleys consisting of quakies, pine, juniper and mahogany, not to mention a fair amount of sagebrush. They were here, within 2 weeks prior to my arrival, and they were here in a big heard.
The next week I dipped into unit 42, and this is a much more dense forest of junipers, and felt more like hunting pine trees than the desert spot and stalk efforts of Nevada, and my week before in unit 40. This had more recent sign of animals, but of the wrong gender, and of a much more isolated variety.
I am unsure the two areas I hunted hard on 4 trips would have yielded any different results, but I did see some deer, and many deer hunters during my time out. The largest takeaway during my time is how a good companion helps to break up the monotony of the long waits on hilltops, and even being able to talk through a plan was missed.
As my tag closed, this made the score Elk 5, Lance Boys 0. Until next year, Wapiti.
Feel free to read about our last skunking here.